It’s been a whirlwind past few months for the entrepreneurs behind Jargon, but Tuesday evening marked a high note after the Seattle startup won the first-ever Ubiquity-GeekWire Award at the Alexa Accelerator Demo Night.
Alexa, can you understand me now? Seattle startup Jargon helps translate voice apps into other languages
GeekWire teamed up with Silicon Valley venture capital firm Ubiquity Ventures for the inaugural Ubiquity-GeekWire Award, a $2,500 cash prize to recognize and reward our winning startup — no strings attached and no equity in return.
Nine startups spent the past three months in Seattle as part of the accelerator, co-led by Techstars and Amazon, honing their pitches and tweaking their business models that incorporate Amazon’s Alexa voice platform.
After the presentations, I huddled with Sunil Nagaraj, managing partner of Bay Area-based Ubiquity Ventures, and Pulse Labs CEO Abhishek Suthan, who participated in the first Alexa Accelerator cohort, to pick our favorite idea. We judged the companies based on the quality of the pitch, business model, and demonstration of deep voice technology integration.
After a thorough debate and discussion, Jargon was our pick for the Ubiquity-GeekWire Award. The Seattle-based startup helps engineers localize voice apps or “skills” that have been built in English so that they’ll work for users in other countries. Jargon also helps non-English-native developers translate their apps for the U.S. market.
“If you find product market fit in one geography, you want to roll it out as quickly as possible to other geographies,” Nagaraj said. “With mobile and PC, you could take your time. But with this rapid voice technology adoption curve, you want a turnkey tool to flip on ten geographies tomorrow. Jargon makes that happen.”
Suthan, whose startup raised follow-on funding from Amazon and Google, said he thinks Jargon can be a big business, particularly if it gets into content management.
“The promise of voice is that it can be leveraged to create a truly personal experience globally,” he added. “It drops barriers from the devices, machines, computers. To be able to do that at scale is the problem that Jargon is solving.”
Jargon CEO and co-founder Milkana Brace gave a polished pitch on Tuesday. She explained how anytime Alexa expands into a new country, Jargon’s market expands. Companies are already spending upwards of $40 billion on localization services for mobile and web products, she added.
“Our strategy is to capitalize on the burning need for voice localization in order to accomplish two goals: to drive wide adoption of the Jargon SDK, and to build a subscription-based customer base,” Brace said during her pitch.
Jargon actually pivoted its business after joining the Alexa Accelerator. The original idea was to create an on-demand interpretation service, but feedback from Amazon mentors who lamented about taking Alexa to international markets helped Jargon switch gears.
“We were really intrigued by their sense of urgency,” Brace told GeekWire after her pitch. “We rebuilt our product from the ground up and our whole story has changed.”
Brace co-founded the company with Jonathan Burstein, Jargon’s chief technology officer. Brace’s background includes jobs at Groupon and Expedia. Burstein has worked at Amazon, Zillow and Microsoft. They’ve added three additional employees in the past 12 weeks.
Check out the rest of the Demo Day pitches here.